Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gay marriage does not threaten straight marriage: SELFISHNESS does- A straight ex-pastor's view in the wake of the CA Supreme court ruling

First, we need to define what marriage is. It is not one bond or covenant, it is really three:
  1. MARRIAGE IS... A commitment between two people to each other.
    1. Usually innate to this commitment are exclusivity (of affection and sexual relations) which = fidelity
    2. There is usually also the expectation of constancy "for richer or poorer"
    3. There is also the expectation of mutuality (what's mine is yours, and vice versa.
    4. All three of these are sometimes modified by agreement of the participants, and sometimes these modifications are codified in the marriage contract, which is issue #3.
  2. MARRIAGE IS... A commitment between these people and their God.
    1. This is where the church comes in. The church can chose to give or withhold its blessing, but it has no bearing on #s 1 or 3.
    2. Churches marry people because
      1. The people seek the church's blessing
      2. The state gives them civil permission to do so.
    3. Without the couple seeking the church's blessing AND the state granting it the civil power to wed, the church is irrelevant.
  3. MARRIAGE IS... A civil contract mediated and recognized by the state.
    1. In the U.S., this means the state as in one of the 50. In other countries, it can mean this or the national government.

So lets keep some perspective regarding the California ruling. It only bears on #3- the civil contract. We have neighbors who are a same sex couple who have been together longer than most heterosexual unions last these days. They made the commitments of #1 and maybe #2, and the bond's efficacy was in no way weakened by the lack of #3.

The sky is not falling, the fabric of the universe remains intact.
And whether you favor homosexuality or not, I'd like to suggest a little humility, perspective, and knowledge would go a long way.

Heterosexual marriages do not break up because of homosexuality or homosexual unions, unless one of the partners in a heterosexual marriage is having an affair with a person of the same gender.

From my standpoint as a married man of 13 years (we just celebrated our 13th anniversary) and a former pastor, the main factor I've seen which causes the strain and break up of a relationship all start and end with uncompromising, unyielding SELFISHNESS. And since our society is indeed a very individualistic one, driven by the urgent need to satisfy all of ones desires in the shortest time possible, this is hardly surprising.
This selfishness evinces itself in all sorts of ways which the experts (see below) describe:
  • Lack of respect for the other person. (I know better, what's the point in even consulting / involving him/her.)
  • Lack of willingness to compromise (I say we do this THIS way- be that raise children, go to church, what ever.)
  • Lack of fidelity to the expected exclusivity.
    • This other "other woman / man" can be an affair
    • It can also be putting work ahead of family
    • It can be putting some other goal or desire ahead of the needs of your spouse.

In none of these will you find that the sexual activities of other people- be they homo or hetero sexual- factor. Heterosexual selfishness is the greatest threat to heterosexual marriage, not homosexuality or homosexual marriage!

I checked out a couple of reputable websites as to what the causes of divorce are. says this:

Divorce rates are higher today than compared to rates just fifteen years ago. The causes of divorce vary from couple to couple, but most commonly stem from one specific issue that is compounded by a lack of commitment to the marriage. The most common causes of divorce include money, infidelity, and career choices.

Commitment to the marriage has little bearing on certain causes, or grounds, of divorce such as infidelity, abuse, or addiction. However, other common causes of divorce such as money, career issues, lack of communication or emotional maturity, and incompatibility are often compounded by a genuine lack of concern for keeping the marriage in tact.

Marriage councilors and experts agree that various communication problems are the root causes of divorce and are just closely followed by the other issues. Though specific grounds for divorce are not required to be filed during a divorce proceeding, incompatibility covers nearly all causes of divorce.

Surprisingly, physical and emotional abuse are not as commonly reported as causes of divorce. This might be because reports are kept private or because physically and emotionally abused spouses find it more difficult to leave the marriage than those in other circumstances.

While money is reportedly the number one argument between a couple, it is unknown if this is actually the number one cause for divorce. Again, this is because the generalized incompatibility grounds would cover a reason for divorce based on money issues.

Far less likely, but reported causes of divorce include disagreement on child-rearing issues. Here again, it is difficult to determine the rate of divorce based on this issue as it is also considered incompatibility. Though incompatibility covers a wide range of domestic issues, it is safe to say that of all the possible causes of divorce, incompatibility is the number one reason people file. says this:

There are as many theories on this issue as there are people offering them. The usual explanations are communication, compromise, and commitment, and it’s hard to disagree with them.

Indeed, if both spouses were consistently able to communicate with each other, able and willing to compromise with each other, and 100% committed to their marriage, it’s hard to see how it could fail.

The vexing question, of course is HOW do they foster communication, compromise, and commitment? Here the explanations diverge.

For those with a fundamental faith foundation, the answer is clear. Marriages work if both spouses obey the principles of the faith. For a more prosaic explanation, check, where therapist Willard Harley lays out a simple set of principles he says any couple can use to help their romance survive and thrive.

The principle that creates the most stir with groups I address is from Cosmopolitan magazine a few years back, namely that the most reliable indicator of the success of a marriage is the extent to which both the husband and wife had close, long-term, platonic relationships with members of the opposite sex before they met.

When you think about it, this makes sense. It’s startling to reflect on how little time husbands and wives spend in genuinely romantic interaction. They will spend most of their married life relating to each other as friends. If either or both of them lacks the essential skills or inclination to do that, the marriage is unlikely to thrive.

One thing I feel strongly about is how little impact adultery has on divorce, and I know that I'm going against the tide here. I hear constantly from all-knowing observers - many of them fundamentalist Christians - who proclaim that if you look behind most divorces, you'll find an adulterous affair somewhere. That may be partially true, because many divorces do involve adultery, but I believe adultery to be a symptom, not a cause, of most divorces. Adultery is a reaction to abuse, and it is a tool of abuse.

Adultery is the legal "gotcha," but I don't think it causes many divorces. I think the crud that drives husbands and wives apart causes divorces. And I think the crud that drives husbands and wives apart also causes adultery. That means they certainly are related, but that doesn't mean adultery causes divorce.

When it comes down to it, my guess is that the main factors that make a marriage work are a combination of the three C's - communication, compromise, and commitment, with a generous sprinkling of blind luck. For those of us in stable, long-term marriages, we have to acknowledge the role that luck plays.

I could go on and site hundreds of articles and sites, but it all comes down to the basic concept of selfishness- loving yourself more than you love your partner.

Good people can disagree about the theological issues involved... and do. But I would commend, urge, and beg that this be done without the hysteria, finger pointing, and blame throwing which so often dominate this discussion.

As for my own views... they don't matter. I'm not serving as a pastor anymore, so I don't have to decide whether to bless anything or anyone. (I will say that when I was involved with weddings as a pastor, I thought they had less to do with God than with putting on a "Disney-land" like spectacle. Just because a wedding's in a church doesn't make it a religious act! This is why when we wed 13 years ago, we had none of that. We got married after the sermon, before the Lord's Supper... we kept the spectacle to ourselves on our honeymoon. *grin*)

I'm appalled by the grade school level name calling that swirls around this issue and the rampant selfishness which soaks our society. What two consenting adults decide to do sexually or emotionally is their concern, not mine.

My only concern with marriage is tending to my own. By God's grace and by Tess being such a devoted spouse- exemplary in every way- mine has lasted 13 years now. I'll continue to concern myself with it and with her, and let state legislatures and courts and consenting adults do as they will.


val said...

In the UK marriage is now a minority sport, more or less. Civil partnerships, being new, are on the up. There is a very sad case, though, of elderly sisters who've lived together their whole lives, the survivor of whom, when the time comes, will have heaps of taxes to pay on their house that married people, gay or straight, do not.

The Rug Goth said...

Ah yes, the death tax. Quite repulsive. In the states clever accountants find ways around that, such as creating trusts and non-profit-orgs which actually own the assets. But its usually those who are well off enough to pay the taxes anyway who are clever or in the know enough to figure out a way around them.